…who turns out to be another numbskull. That’s the story told by this dry legal opinion, rehosted at NSSF.
Short version of the story: Regis Ellis and his friend Williams were at a range, fooling around with Williams’s handgun, a Hi-Point C9. At some point, Regis shot himself in the hand. It’s hard to establish exactly what happened, as Regis’s story has changed a great deal, as has Williams’s, and they were the only witnesses. But after his visit to the ER for a through-and-through gunshot of the hand, Regis apparently concluded that he had just won Lawsuit Lotto.
He found an ambulance chaser named Jason Schiffman of Schiffman and Wojdowski, and sued the gun maker and the jobber (a separate corporation), both of which do business as “Hi-Point”; Federal Cartridge Company, the civilian-ammo branch of ATK Corporation, which presumably made the offending cartridge; and, for good measure, his wife Bonnie. (That’s the tale told in the original filing from 2009. Maybe some lawyer/reader can explain the legal strategy involved in suing your own wife for something other than divorce).
By the time the case matured under US Judge Alan Bloch in the Western District of Pennsylvania this month, Bonnie had migrated around to the Plaintiff’s side, like a flounder’s eye. And Bloch had had his sense of humor and judicial restraint tested to the limit. He spanked Ellis’s attorney (presumably Schiffman, although the memorandum opinion names him not) and sanctioned him for a frivolous complaint.
Reading between the lines, it sure seems like Bloch believes that either the plaintiff or his attorney damaged the gun subsequently to the accident to try to make it appear that the gun blew up. (The damage to the lawsuit gun appears identical to damage to an exemplar gun that the defendants shot with another gun, actually). But he didn’t need to use that to tee off on the plaintiff’s attorney.
The attorney had the gun from the very beginning of the case, and never had it professionally examined. He retained an expert witness, but misrepresented the defendants’ evidence to his own expert, and then canned the guy anyway. He repeatedly asserted claims that he didn’t have evidence to support, that the evidence that he had contradicted, or that had already been dismissed as frivolous. It was a campaign of bold bluffs, but the defendants repeatedly called every bluff, and then made the poor fellow eat them.
How bad were the claims? The attorney claimed that the cartridge somehow “just went off” and then exited through first the side of the slide, then the trigger guard of the beefy Hi-Point before ventilating his client. (DARPA called, they want their round that can take a 90-degree turn inflight back). That the assertion was physically impossible did not seem to deter the plaintiff, good ol’ nine-fingers Regis, or his attorney, in the slightest.
It looks suspiciously like the attorney was that kind of lawyer who writes a lot of demand letters to firms he expects to roll over and settle as a nuisance cost of doing business, and makes a rich living on 33.3% of lots of small settlements for nuisance suits. If so, he failed his clients again, this time by not doing due diligence on the defendant. Hi-Point makes cheap handguns and for that reason has been under assault by anti-gun, left-wing legal groups for many years. Some of the best legal talent in Washington has tried to shake Hi-Point’s principals down, and they’re still standing. A patently dopey product-liability case is not going to score.
In the end, Judge Bloch had some fun with the case:
In light of the above, the Court finds that this case was “a shot in the dark” and unfortunately for Counsel, he not only missed his mark, his gun was not even loaded. The Court finds that monetary sanctions are warranted against Counsel and his law firm.
As Son Tay Raider Paul Poole [RIP] taught the generation of us who followed him, “Never dry fire in a firefight. Bwa-haw-haw!” Hi-Point’s attorneys have asked for all their fees to date to be paid by Ellis’s inept lawyer (presumably Schiffman). The judge hasn’t committed to that yet, but says he’ll consider that if it’s reasonable.
This is probably time for the lawyer in the crosshairs to recognize that his own skills are not getting the job done, and he’d better hire another lawyer. A good lawyer.